Sinkhole Could Keep Laurel Canyon Closed For Several Days

STUDIO CITY (CBSLA.com) — Crews are working to repair the sinkhole in Studio City Saturday, which swallowed two vehicles Friday, causing firefighters to rescue one woman trapped in her car.

The sinkhole was likely caused by excessive rain combined with a sewer failure, the city of Los Angeles said in a news release Saturday. Both vehicles were pulled out overnight. City engineers told KCAL9 Saturday morning that they believe the hole is stable. There are two apartment complexes on either side.

Repairs could take several days, the city said. Crews with the bureaus of Sanitation, Engineering and Contract Administration were working to shore up the sinkhole, which is 20 feet deep and about 30 feet in diameter.

Before they can reopen Laurel Canyon Boulevard, engineers said they need to ensure there are no more pockets of water or damage to the sewer pipe that may cause more sinkholes to happen. Engineers have also placed hidden cameras underneath the hole.

Laurel Canyon Boulevard is closed between Moorpark Street and Valley Spring Lane. Woodbridge Street is closed east of Laurel Canyon.

“We have 6,700 miles of sewers, over 1,300 miles of storm drains,” Adel Hegekhalil of the LA Sanitation department said. “The system is fine, accidents happen, this is an anomaly, we haven’t had this in a long time. We haven’t had this rain in a long time.”

Firefighters were sent at 8:16 p.m. Friday to the sinkhole at 4245 N. Laurel Canyon Blvd., two blocks south of Moorpark Street, according to Erik Scott, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Firefighters arrived to find one car upside-down in a large, dark sinkhole full of rushing water. The single occupant was standing on the upside-down car, approximately 10 feet below street level, Scott said. She was rescued and transported to a hospital in fair condition.

The woman told firefighters that while she was driving, she felt the car pitch to the left, then it tumbled into the sinkhole and the airbags deployed. Water started coming into the vehicle and she tried to raise the windows, which didn’t work, Scott said.

The woman said she was able to open the door and climb on top of the car and started screaming for help.

“She said she thought she was going to die,” Scott said. “Then she heard the firefighters yell back to her.”

CBS2’s Tina Patel reported from the scene where crews were still trying to determine what cause the street to open up.

“I think the storm was too heavy, the soil got saturated and I think the sewer was a weak point. All that combined caused the problem,” said Hagekhalil,

Friends are rallying around the female driver, Stephanie Scott, a make-up artist. She lost all her supplies and suffered injuries to her hands that will keep her from working for a while. Her friends have set yo a GoFundMe page and have already raised nearly half of their $30,000 goal in 11 hours.

KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen found a witness to the van falling in.

“I was just shocked,” said Annabel Gray, “I couldn’t believe it.”

She could barely believe what she was seeing.

“I saw the minivan teetering and I saw it go in,” she said.

In the meantime, a giant steel box has been placed inside the sinkhole until crews can repair it.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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